As spring flowers blossom and release pollen, our allergies awaken, resulting in a variety of symptoms. For us desert dwellers the winds can not only blow these allergens around, but also dry our sinuses, causing sneezing, congestion, watery eyes and a runny nose. 

Spring is traditionally the main season when allergies blossom because of new growth on trees and weeds. However, fall ushers in a whole different set of blooming plants, and is also a time of increased leaf mold, so it is the second-worst season for allergy sufferers. 

While there are many medications to treat seasonal allergies, these treatments can cause unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness and immune system suppression, as well as an over-reliance on medications. Because of these side effects, many search for alternative approaches to manage their allergies. 

Fortunately for sufferers, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have been used to treat allergies for centuries, including allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, hives and even food allergies. 

When treating with TCM, underlying imbalances within the body are addressed. A treatment plan is developed to relieve the acute symptoms of allergic rhinitis while also treating the root problems that are contributing to the body’s reaction to allergens. Treatments often include dietary modification, the use of specifically chosen herbal formulas, and acupuncture.

In fact, herbs are particularly effective in dealing with allergies, especially once acute symptoms have been relieved with acupuncture. Many of the formulas contain Angelica root, magnolia flower buds, honeysuckle, and Xanthium, tangerine peel and mint.

Diet also can play an important part in controlling seasonal allergies. Sweets, dairy products, and cold foods all tend to increase mucus buildup, putting ice cream and yogurt at the top of the list of foods to avoid during allergy season. When excessive mucus accumulates in the system, allergens stimulate a much stronger allergic reaction. Foods which increase resistance include green tea and chrysanthemum tea made from dried flowers. Radishes are cool and moist, which makes them ideal for treating dry, itchy allergy eyes. They can also help clear the sinuses, drain mucous and ease sore throats. 

Honey may be one of the best foods to help with allergies. The prevailing theory is that it works like a vaccination. Local honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating local honey may make the body accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance of immune system responses that are responsible for allergy symptoms.

Those who wait until they start sneezing or suffer from a sinus headache may find they’ve acted too late. Being proactive is always a good policy. Avoid known allergens, stay indoors if possible on windy days, and maintain a good diet and healthy immune system. Visit a qualified practitioner at the first signs of allergy and enjoy a healthy, sneeze-free spring.

Diane Sheppard is owner of AcQpoint Wellness Center in La Quinta. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine and can be reached at (760) 775.7900.

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